CHICAGO - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's top infrastructure priorities if re-elected are safe and efficient transit options, expanding access to parks and recreational areas, and creating more anchors for economic growth in city neighborhoods.
The Chicago Transit Authority improvements he wants include a nearly $500 million overhaul of the Blue Line train that runs to O'Hare International Airport, a new downtown super-station, improvements on the northern branch of the Red Line train, planning on an extension of the southern branch of the Red Line, and rail and bus fleet improvements.
Emanuel wants at least 200 miles of streets repaved over the next four years, the expansion of bike lanes and the Divvy bike sharing service. He plans for three dozen new parks and playgrounds in underserved neighborhoods and at schools.
Emanuel also touted plans in the works to renovate downtown's Union Station for which the city will seek fiscal help from Amtrak, federal agencies, and the state.
"The complete overhaul that is needed will require a multi-year, $500 million dollar investment that will create thousands of jobs and breathe new life into that corner of the near West side," he said. The city this week announced a $12 million investment from Amtrak.
"Over the next four years, my administration will continue the job-creating infrastructure investments that are so important to our workers, our neighborhoods, and our overall economy," Emanuel said in a campaign speech.
Emanuel leads among the five candidates for mayor in the February 24 contest. He faces Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, Alderman Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson, and William "Dock" Walls. If no one candidate receives a majority, the top two face a runoff.
Emanuel also sought to highlight accomplishments of his first term in what his campaign billed as a key speech on infrastructure goals at the City Club of Chicago Thursday. Soon after he took office he outlined $7 billion in infrastructure work planned across the city although large pieces were already underway.
Emanuel said the work has been aided with $700 million in financial support from the federal government and $1.3 million from the state, funds he took credit for aggressively pursuing.
"In total, we have invested more than seven billion dollars over the last three years in upgrading our city infrastructure - creating more than 30,000 jobs," Emanuel said. "These investments are the key to neighborhood economic development, key to creating the next generation of good-paying jobs, and key to keeping Chicago competitive in the global economy."